By Sarbani Bandhopadhyay
I report here on the recent communal tension in Bashirhat district that erupted over the cartoon that was posted on FB by Sourav Sarkar. I do so in the capacity of a member of the advisory committee of shanti o sampriti manch, West Bengal.
A meeting of shanti o sampriti manch was called to address the communal situation in Bashirhat, a border district of West Bengal. It was held in the premises of Calcutta Buddhist temple near bowbazar police station. Several speakers addressed the small gathering. Many members couldn’t turn up as they were involved in ground level activities to prevent escalation of tension and RSS plots from materializing.
I am reporting on the speeches of two which directly concerned communal violence and this particular incident of Baduria block, Bashirhat.
Ratan Basu Majumdar discussing the anti-communal activities of a small group of people in different districts of West Bengal spoke about how the RSS is spreading rumours and inciting violence. He specifically mentioned a recent incident in Hingalganj, north 24 parganas, West Bengal. Recently in the morning some Muslim men saw some turtles roaming around in the village mosque. They took those turtles to the Imam. The Imam enquired from them about outsiders coming to the village the day before the turtles were discovered and they informed the imam that a pir baba was the only outsider who was in the village that night, and he spent the night in that mosque. The imam told them to get hold of the baba. On learning that he had already left, imam ordered these people to somehow get hold of him. They managed to bring him to the imam. On searching his jhola (loose long cloth bag) turtles and a can with gorur mangsho (beef/cow meat) written on it were found. On his interrogation he confessed that he was paid to place turtles in mosques and beef in Hindu temples.
Ratan BaSu further said that throughout the country the RSS has appointed 1000 computer engineers to manufacture and spread rumours. In west Bengal 12 are appointed to work particularly in Malda, Murshidabad, Nadia, and Bashirhat. Bashirhat has become a fertile ground for RSS activities. Now they are also focussing on north and south Dinajpur. These have to be confronted to thwart RSS politics.
The other speaker was Kamar-uz-zaman who is associated with Minorities Youth Federation and and is the vice-president of shanti o sampriti manch. Kamaruzzaman resides in Deganga block of Bashirhat. Since train services are still disrupted he was not sure if he could attend the meeting. Ananta Acharya requested him to somehow come since a lot of rumours and misinformation was being spread about the incident where in Baduria block some Muslim youth in the age group of 20-24 have put up road blocks, broke shops and forced them to be shut down over the extremely offensive cartoon that Sourav Sarkar posted on FB.
Kamruzzaman giving a brief introduction about the social and political rationale behind the formation of the shanti o sampriti manch went over to the recent communal tension and clashes that took place in Baduria, Deganga and some other places in Bashirhat.
He reported on a conversation a journalist friend of his had with a state-level functionary of RSS. The journalist was asked about the situation in Bashirhat by the RSS leader. To that he reported that the condition was very bad The RSS man replied that it was supposed to be like that for RSS had to pump in a lot of money to create such a communal situation. So Kamruzzaman thinks that in this way a massive trap has been laid. Uneducated, semi-employed Muslim youth with access to Jio net service have fallen into this trap. The Baduria incident shows, he said, that although lower castes poor people were deployed by the RSS the actual 100% beneficiary was the RSS. He called for a concerted effort against RSS so that such incidents do not occur there or in other parts of the state again.
In these recent clashes poor lower castes people have been used by the RSS like the Adivasis were used in the Jharkhand lynching. Only two days before (5th July) weapons used during the Ram Navami procession had been handed out to these Dalit and lower castes people by the RSS.
Kamruzzaman implored us to think as to why in all the blocks of Bashirhat district which are Muslim inhabited, where Muslims are in a majority have remained by and large peaceful but tensions and clashes have been occurring in Hindu majority areas of Bashirhat. In Deganga there was a blockade but from following day there was no such incident, it was peaceful. In Baduria block where this particular incident of blockade occurred has been peaceful for the last two days. Similar is the case with other Muslim majority blocks and villages in Bashirhat. However the Hindu majority areas have not seen peace or lessening of tensions. These areas represent the constituency of the BJP leader Samir Bhattacharya who has polled a huge number of votes in these blocks. The communal situation and trouble is being kept alive in these bjp strongholds. People in such Hindu majority blocks have also said that they are waiting for the state BJP president Dilip Ghosh to visit the blocks.
Muslim leadership and organizations have tried to prevent this section of Muslim youth from continuing with their blockades and protests. They have mostly succeeded. However the condemnation of these protesting youth should also be seen in the context of police and administrative inaction over the lynching of Pehlu Khan, Junaid, Alimuddin. They have not received justice and their killers are roaming free. These youth who found their religious sensibilities hurt took the law in their hands for they have lost faith in police and administration.
Kamruzzaman ended his speech saying that Muslims fear communal clashes and tension for it is the Muslim community that suffers the most from such tensions and violence. So they would never want peace to be disrupted.
Finally this is what I confirmed from several people in the organization and those who have come from Bashirhat: The Shuddhabrata Sengupta story of Muslim youth demanding that Sourav Sarkar be stoned to death or lynched is a rumour spread by the RSS.